Take a Drink: for every accent.
Take a Drink: whenever anyone says “accomplice” or “coup.”
Take a Drink: whenever Philippe makes a wirewalker model out of random items.
Do a Shot: THE NAIL!
Keep Drinking as Much as Required: to get through the “walk” sequence (try not to close your eyes.)
By: BabyRuth (Two Beers) –
Everyone has at least one big dream. Many people hope to travel the world. Some aspire to complete a marathon. Others may dream of writing the next Great American Novel. My stepfather wants to collect every piece of KISS memorabilia ever made (“Good luck with that one, Anthony,” said Gene Simmons).
A Frenchman named Philippe Petit had a dream, too. But not one most people would share. He wanted to walk a high wire strung between the World Trade Towers, 1,350 feet above the ground. No harness. No net. No fear.
Well, maybe a little.
On August 7th, 1974, at the age of 24 and after six years of planning, he made his dream a reality. With the help of a few dedicated co-conspirators, Petit successfully snuck into the towers, rigged his wire, and walked from one rooftop to the other, not once, not twice, but eight times for a total of 45 minutes.
This is all well documented, notably in 2008’s Academy Award-winning Man on Wire, which features interviews with Petit himself, as well the others involved in pulling off the unbelievable act, along with photos and video footage.
With The Walk, Petit’s story gets the Hollywood treatment, a full-on 3-D Robert Zemeckis- directed experience of his journey from that crazy dream all the way up to a quarter mile into the New York City sky with only a steel cable keeping him from certain death.
Let’s just cut to the chase. The “walk” itself delivers, and then some. It is, by far, one of the most incredibly thrilling visual sequences I’ve ever experienced in a movie theater. Feeling more like an attraction at Universal Studios than a film, Zemeckis puts the viewer on that high wire along with Petit and even though we know he makes it out alive, every moment is suspenseful and terrifying.
I get nervous on Ferris wheels, okay fine, I get nervous on second floor balconies, and my heart was racing, my knees were to my chest, and my very sweaty hands were covering my mouth for the entire 20 minute duration of the recreation of Petit’s stunt. (For the record, I saw the film in 3-D IMAX.) I caught myself whispering “Okay, that’s good… Get down now… Please… Aw hell no, what?” THIS is what CGI and 3-D should do. It should transport. It should feel real. And my God, does it ever. Almost too real to handle. (There have been reports of audience members fainting and getting sick, but do not let that deter you. It’s so worth it.)
It’s also a whole a lot of fun getting to that big moment. The second half of the film revolves around the “coup”, as Petit likes to call it, in which he and his not-so-crack team of “accomplices” carry out the groundwork for the stunt, which is nearly as impossible to pull off as the walk itself (the rigging equipment weighed several hundred pounds). It plays out like a heist movie with some funny moments and also some stomach-dropping ones.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is fluent in French, gives an inspired performance in the leading role. I watched Man on Wire after seeing the The Walk and Levitt nails Petit’s mannerisms, inflections, grace, and charisma. It’s an authentic and respectful interpretation of the larger-than-life daredevil. Levitt trained one-on-one with Petit to learn how to walk on a wire and his dedication and hard work paid off. It was a wise casting decision and I couldn’t imagine any other actor more perfect for the part.
The film feels as much a tribute to those towers as it does to Petit and his breathtaking feat. To see the buildings standing again in all their massive glory is a little jarring at first, especially with how three-dimensionally real they look. The tragic events that occurred twenty-seven years after the film takes place are never specifically mentioned, though alluded to when Levitt as Petit comments in the framing narrative (atop the Statue of Liberty with the towers in the background) that he received a lifetime pass to visit the World Trade Center. The closing shot gives the audience one last look at the buildings and serves as a beautiful dedication.
The film’s first half focuses on Petit’s backstory and is a little slow-going, though filled with Zemeckis’ jaunty whimsy (fitting since Petit has referred to his story as a fairy tale). Of course it’s necessary, but everyone’s really waiting for the big show.
The supporting characters are thinly drawn, especially one accomplice introduced late in the film who appears to have wandered in from the set of Dazed and Confused, but the cast, particularly Ben Kingsley as Petit’s mentor and Charlotte Le Bon as love interest Annie, do the best with what they are given.
These are very small nitpicks though; everything from the coup to the walk is well worth the price of admission.
If you are planning to see this film, see it now, in a theater, in 3-D, and IMAX if possible. Do not skimp on this one. It is simply exhilarating, all the more so knowing it really happened and nearly exactly as the way it is depicted.
I also highly recommend checking out Man on Wire, as the two works complement each other wonderfully. By the way, don’t listen to anyone that says The Walk isn’t worth watching since the documentary already exists. The incredible story of Phillipe Petit’s accomplishment is certainly one worth telling twice and Zemeckis’ thrilling version is most definitely a must-see. Run, don’t walk. (sorry, had to do it)